What Have Clinicians & Patients Achieved Across The Last Two Years?
“Keeping our sanity!”
That was the biggest achievement, Birgit joked. However, from talking about the challenges of the past 24 months, it starts to sound like a serious accomplishment. In our 2 part series, we’ve chatted to Birgit to explore behind the scenes at IRS as an occupational therapist. Birgit has already told us what her day to day life looks like for IRS in part 1 and in this part, she told us about some of the inspirational achievements of clinicians and patients.
Birgit explained how she had been inspired by how a lot of clients’ resilience and how they have adjusted to online platforms to continue their ongoing rehab. To understand how IRS have adapted their services because of the pandemic, we asked Birgit:
“We couldn’t do any face-to-face appointments for a while. A lot of the work we did – and continue to do, interestingly enough – is using teams and zoom. But this isn’t always possible as sometimes we need to meet with individuals in person to support their needs. For example, measuring equipment isn’t always possible on Zoom.”
Birgit went on to tell us how she helped someone buy a house on Zoom that has an extension for a lady with disabilities. This highlighted that great support was still always happening for IRS’s clients over the pandemic. Although she did joke that upon seeing the house in person for the first time, it was smaller than it appeared through Zoom.
Video calling enables us to instantly speak to clients whenever they need us. This has saved time our OTs previously spent on travelling and allowed our patients to reach out for fast support whenever they need it. As helpful as video calling has proven to be, we wanted to get back to meeting with patients in person as soon as possible. This helps form lasting bonds with clients and makes assessing their needs as well as equipment easier. Thankfully, face-to-face sessions were only paused for a short time.
They’re continuing now based on the client’s requests and with the team wearing full PPE. Birgit went on to explain the benefits of video calling and how it saved patients time. However, the main benefit Birgit highlighted was how it helped her to continue forming personal connections with clients.
“The beauty is that it’s in that moment. Someone can speak to you and see your face and I can see their face. I can see their reactions and better assess what their difficulties might be.”
Birgit told us how the biggest achievement for clients was how they’ve adapted to the pandemic. She described all her client’s willingness to adapt to the unique changes none of us were used to as inspirational. We wanted to know more, so she told us about a few of the patients who have still achieved so much despite the pandemic.
“One client previously wouldn’t have gone near a computer. But to continue their ongoing rehab, they’ve now got a computer and are regularly hosting meetings on Zoom. Another client, a young gentleman in his early 20s with a spinal injury, moved out of his parent’s house and into trial accommodation for independent living. Since then, we’ve purchased and are working to adapt a property for his needs that’s going to be his forever home.”
Birgit went on to tell us about a client who booked a trip to Cyprus for his son’s wedding. Because of a brain injury, there were many activities he hadn’t been able to do previously. To support him with these challenges and to ensure he could go on the trip safely, the OTs at IRS conducted a thorough risk assessment.
From there, we created training plans and identified the necessary equipment the client needed. Thanks to the team’s and the client’s hard work he had an unforgettable time, even being able to take part in swimming and water sports, which he hadn’t done since before his brain injury.
One of the final clients we spoke to Birgit about was a lady with a very complex spinal injury.
“I began working with the client in February last year. When she started treatment she couldn’t walk for ten minutes. Now she’s working towards climbing Snowdon in the spring after completing the majority of her rehab online. I actually did a two and half hour walk with her last week and the only reason we stopped was that I had another appointment!”
Birgit said her biggest achievements were when a client becomes a lifetime client. Someone that she’ll support throughout their lives. For example, the young man with a spinal injury who moved out during the pandemic. From bedding in to his home to the day he begins learning to drive, Birgit told us how she’ll be there to help him.
Birgit also explained how if he plans to have children, she will support him with any challenges. Making lifelong connections with clients is what inspires Birgit every day, being there for the good and bad times builds real bonds and prompts notable improvements to our client’s well-being.
Advice For Aspiring Occupational Therapists
We asked Birgit what the main skill an aspiring occupational therapist needs.
“A dislike of routine!”
Again, despite Birgit joking, there was much truth said in jest. She explained how OTs need to be flexible and creative as every day is different. You also need to have a practical mindset as it’s a hands-on job. One day you may need to repair a wheelchair, while on another you may be teaching someone how to poach an egg. To be a good OT you need to always be willing to learn.
Birgit also explained you need a good foundation of knowledge. Clients may have a wide range of challenges, so you need a grounding in clinical skills. She advised any OTs to regularly attend training and AMPs. You should also bond with other clinicians to find others that are comfortable dealing with certain needs, she told us.
Every day and client is different. Birgit says OTs need to embrace these differences, as well as clients’ needs, wishes, aspirations, and goals. She also explained the importance of teamwork between everyone involved in a client’s care. One case study she highlighted was with a gentleman with a brain injury and other complex needs.
“It’s so important to come together as a team to support the patient and to support each other during challenging moments which can be difficult to deal with as an individual. Our roles are to support the gentlemen with his rehab and support each other with the challenges of supporting him.”
As we’ve explored in both parts of this behind the scenes look at occupational therapy at IRS, even with all the challenges of the pandemic IRS team’s and Birgit’s patients have achieved so much these past two years. Thankfully, along with the other support workers at IRS, Birgit has been able to continue face-to-face therapy sessions after a short break. As long as the client feels comfortable, all our OTs are visiting them while wearing full PPE at our own risk.
- Embraced new technology – We’ve embraced new technology to benefit our clients. Video calling, using whatever software the client feels comfortable with, has enabled us to keep in contact with individuals no matter what. We’ve adapted our services to save our clinicians and clients time, while always valuing the importance of face-to-face sessions.
Every day is different in the life of an OT. Birgit has told us that this has never been more true than in the last two years. Every client has different challenges, aspirations, and goals. As well as a unique personality, that an OT has to connect with to build a long-term relationship. The key to building lasting relationships, Birgit explained, is clear and personal communication. The goal of an OT is to make a client’s life easier, even after life-changing injuries, which isn’t possible without communication.
- Communication is something all IRS’s OTs understand is crucial – Whether it’s learning about a client – what their goals and challenges are – or forming bonds with other clinicians that improve teamwork, communication is a skill the team views as invaluable. That’s why our team at IRS makes sure we’re always easy to contact, for both patients and other clinicians.
Birgit has over 20 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist. Over the years, she and the team at IRS have created many bespoke therapy plans for patients based on their challenges and goals. If you’re looking to support someone you care about or would like to talk to a fellow OT for mentoring, get in touch with our team today.